The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for January 2011

What is being asked of our community?

I have watched the DVD Living with Autism in Our Community numerous times. Every time, I am struck by the simplicity of what the parents in the DVD say in response to the question “What can the community do”?

They ask for their children to be welcomed, supported, and accepted for the individuals they are. One mom simply says that her son didn’t choose to have autism, and is it really so much to ask the community to give him some grace. Another mother asks that the community become more educated about disabilities in order to be aware of how to support her son.

These are not large, complicated or expensive requests. The community can honor them and The Arcadia Institute is here to help. We support organizations and individual instructors who open their doors to everyone in the community. Through our Building a Community of Belonging Forum, The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners are offering an opportunity for many more people, organizations and businesses to learn how to develop Kalamazoo and other communities into places that are responsible for ensuring that all people are participating in life as they choose.

Join us on March 16 and 17 for Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Community Partners. You can learn more about our upcoming Forum here.

by Allison Hammond, The Arcadia Institute

Building a Community of Belonging 2011

At the Arcadia Institute, we have a vision. We want to see Kalamazoo become a Community of Belonging, and we want you to be part of making our vision real.

One way you can participate is by attending the second annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum on March 16 and 17, brought to you by the Arcadia Institute and its partners, the Boys and Girls Club of Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Nature Center, the Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts and the Kalamazoo YMCA.

What is a Community of Belonging?

“It is one in which everyone is considered an equal part of it, and is welcome to participate, and no one is eliminated because of disabilities. No one is eliminated because of race or religion or any other arbitrary characteristic. Everyone is a valued member and we support each other,” said George Martin, President of the Arcadia Institute.

Since the first Forum in March 2010, the Arcadia Institute and its partners have seen the emergence of a strong cooperative desire to open the community to people with disabilities. The Forum is a chance for organizations and community members to come together and share their experiences and ideas.

The Forum is meant to be a place where “people come from all over to Kalamazoo to see what we’re trying to do here, learn from it and strengthen what we do here,” said Martin.

Why is this important?

Not only is being part of something good for an individual, it’s good for the community to come together and work toward a common goal, supporting each other.

The Forum is open to anyone in the community who wants to be part of this movement. The Forum is part of the Arcadia Institute’s Community Participation Initiative, a four-year-long effort to develop a community support network made up of community agencies that serve everyone: individual citizens, organizations that provide specific support to individuals with disabilities, advocacy groups, people with disabilities and their families.

Since 2007, we have worked with more than 50 community agencies and small business, and directly assisted more than 200 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Forum is building upon that work.

Please join us!

Learn more about the 2011 Building a Community of Belonging Forum here.

George Martin, Allison Hammond, Hyun Berkley and Heather Stewart
The Arcadia Institute

New Year, New Opportunities

We look back on 2010 with a great deal of pride and gratitude. Pride for increasing the number of individuals we have supported to take part in community activities of their choosing to over 200, and gratitude for the powerful response from over 50 organizations in the community to our Initiative.

The experiences of individuals have affirmed the validity of our mission in many ways. The leadership that other organizations are taking to include children and adults with disabilities is inspiring. The support we receive from our primary funding body, Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, is a source of great encouragement.

Our hopes and expectations for 2011 are very high. We see the commitments to our mission increasing in both depth and breadth throughout the community of Kalamazoo and beyond.

Call on us, and join us in this movement.

George Martin
The Arcadia Institute

Having Dreams Unites Us

This week the Blog was written by Heather Stewart.

When I was younger, I had many dreams. I wanted to be an actress, a marine biologist, an author. I wanted to see the places I read about in books. I wanted to do the things I saw in movies. As I grew older my dreams changed, but I still had dreams. I still have dreams. Most people know the feeling, the desire for accomplishment or discovery. Whatever the shape or size of the dream, having them unites us.

My name is Heather, and I’ve just begun working with the Arcadia Institute. Doing so is fulfilling one of my dreams: continuing to work with a non-profit group. And I think that the Arcadia Institute has a unique understanding of the power of dreams. Here at the Arcadia Institute, we work to fulfill them.

The first step is, of course, discovering the dream. Working one-on-one with Participants, letting them guide the conversation, it’s easy to discover that they want to learn how to play a guitar or take a painting class.

Knowing the dream, it’s time to reach out into the community. Sometimes it’s an individual; sometimes it’s an organization. We partner with others in our dream-making endeavor.

And when the dream becomes a reality – after a few guitar lessons or painting classes or dance or swimming or horseback riding or any other dream we can catch – we’ve done more than make a dream come true. We’ve created an opportunity for someone who did not have one, and enriched the lives of all involved.

Do you know someone with a dream? Are you a community organization that would like to help us make dreams come true? Through the Community Participation Initiative, we can help children and adults with disabilities participate in activities open to all citizens.

I hope you’ll join me. Together, we can make dreams come true!